Espresso Julep

New Yorkers get obsessed with iced coffee in summer. And New York’s independent cafes seem to keep coming up with endlessly creative new ways to make iced coffee.

Coffee Julep
Toby’s Estate Espresso Julep – Photo from Cool Hunting

To escape the heat of a recent New York summer’s afternoon we ducked into the Toby’s Estate location in the Flatiron district of Manhattan. Gabrielle had her usual iced latte and my parents (who were visiting from New Zealand) opted for iced espressos. But I was feeling particularly adventurous and went for a new mint flavored drink on their menu, the Iced Espresso Julep.

The iced coffee julep is essentially an iced coffee with mint. But there are several things that make the Toby’s Estate version a lot better than your everyday Mint Iced Coffee. The things that stood out to me about the Toby’s Estate Mint Julep were:

  1. Made with espresso rather than the on-trend cold brew. This gives the drink a nice strong and familiar coffee taste to build on.
  2. Stiffly frothed milk. The cappuccino style frothed milk makes a nice addition that smooths out the other tastes.
  3. The Mint is paired with Basil which gives a more complex cocktail-style flavor profile.
  4. The infusion syrup is not too sweet which means you can actually taste the other ingredients.
  5. The various ingredients are carefully layered so that the drink arrives looking like a hand crafted cocktail instead of a lime-green milkshake.

Overall, the espresso julep was cool, crisp, refreshing and easy to drink. I enjoyed it so much that I’ve been plotting excuses to go back to the (shopping heavy) Flatiron district. There are several New York trend spotterscool hunters and coffee bloggers who have also noticed the drink on the menu, so I predict that by next summer it will be an option at plenty more hipster cafes in New York.

Coffee Julep
Mint Espresso Julep – Photo from Serious Eats

There’s a small cafe in Austin Texas called Houndstooth that’s been making an espresso julep for a couple of years now, but Toby’s Estate seems to be the first to bring it to New York and to do it well.

Mint Iced Coffee
Houndstooth Coffee Julep – Photo from Houndstooth Cafe

Since trying out the Toby’s Estate version, I’ve also been inspired to check out other iced coffee cocktails. Normally, I find that flavored iced coffees end up tasting horrible, but some of the New York iced coffee cocktails can be quite creative.

Iced Coffee Cocktail
SL 28 Fizz – Photo from Under Line Cafe

The SL28 Fizz from Under Line Cafe in Chelsea is made from grapefruit juice, tonic and espresso. It’s pretty bitter and I had to force myself to finish it. But I’m glad I ordered it and would recommend it to coffee hunters that are looking for something new. It’s a strong hit.

Imbibe Magazine has the recipe to make your own Toby’s Estate style Espresso Julep at home.

Nitro Coffee in New York

Summer in New York can get surprisingly warm, so the city embraces iced coffee like no other city I’ve ever lived in. The newest craze in iced coffee is nitro iced coffee. This coffee has Nitrogen infused into the coffee to create a similar head and mouthfeel to a stout beer like Guinness.

Nitro Iced Coffee Trend
Adding nitrogen gas to make iced coffee frothy is the latest New York coffee trend.

In theory, nitro could be added to any style of iced coffee (espresso made, filtered or even instant), but the trend seems to be to add nitro to cold-brewed coffee. The nitro seems to balance out the sometimes tangy taste of a real cold-brew.

Nitro foam coffee
The nitrogen swirls around the glass and gradually forms a foam head.

Stumptown coffee roasters are leading the charge and they have nitro on draft at their location in the West Village.

Nitro Ice Coffee
Nitro at Stumptown in New York

They were nice enough to let me try adding milk at the bottom of the pour to make a nitro latte, but honestly, it tastes just as good as plain black coffee without the milk.

Nitro cold brew Stumptown
Stumptown have been a leader in adding nitro to cold-brew coffee.

Nolita Mart in Little Italy has their own keg system for iced coffee and they are serving Stumptown nitro as well as other iced coffees on tap.

Nolita Mart Iced Coffee
Nolita Mart has their own iced coffee on tap.

For a good nitro coffee in Brooklyn, Hungry Ghost is serving the Stumptown nitro on draft.

Nitro Cold Brew Coffee
Nitro coffee from Hungry Ghost in Brooklyn.

Sahadi’s in Brooklyn Heights has a nitro cold brew from Gillies Coffee Roastery in Brooklyn. But honestly, it was just a bitter coldbrew with some gas infused into it. The Gillies nitro taught me that adding bubbles won’t make up for a bad tasting coffee. So I can’t recommend it.

If you’re lucky you can find Nitro Cold Brew in a can, which would allow you to try out this trend at home.

Nitro coffee can
Nitro in a can.

Other places the New York Post suggests to check out include Brooklyn Roasting in Flatiron and Plowshares in the Upper West Side.

New York Coffee Subscriptions

We’ve recently moved to Brooklyn Heights and we’re just out of walking distance for anywhere that sells really good coffee beans for brewing at home. So I’ve started looking for the USA equivalent of my beloved Pact Coffee subscription in the UK. It turns out there are some great options in New York for having coffee delivered to your home each week so that the beans are extra fresh.

Brooklyn Roasting Company

The Brooklyn Roasting Company options for beans are good but you need to purchase the annual subscription as a single upfront purchase and the delivery costs are additional. I’ve found their general house espresso roast to be far too dark for use in an Aeropress or a French Press plunger at home.

Brooklyn Roasting Coffee Subscription
The Brooklyn Roasting Company subscription is really just a mail-order delivery.

I’m still a fan of Brooklyn Roasting Company but their subscription service feels like its been tacked on as an afterthought.

Brooklyn Roasting Subscription: $14 for 12 ounces every two weeks


For me Stumptown is the leader in the New York coffee scene. On average all their roasts are slightly lighter and in keeping with the taste of modern coffee connoisseurs.

Stumptown Coffee Subscription
The Stumptown Coffee Subscription arrives every two weeks.

The Stumptown coffee bean delivery seems well put together but I get the sense it’s just a small part of their much larger business so it’s not really a focus for them

Stumptown Subscription: $20 for 12 ounces every two weeks

Blue Bottle Coffee

Blue Bottle is a Venture Capital backed startup. Last year they acquired a dedicated coffee subscription startup to re-brand it as part of their family of cafes and roasters. I find their espresso beans a bit weak and flavorless but their in-home subscription service allows for you to try different coffees each time so it should all balance out.

Blue Bottle Coffee Subscription
The Blue Bottle coffee bean delivery feels like a modern on-demand startup service.

Their subscription business is obviously a key focus for them and they seem to have put the most effort into building the subscription model and allowing you to customize it.

Blue Bottle Subscription: $17 for 12 ounces every two weeks

Coffee Subscription Reviews

Over the coming months, I’ll be trying the different coffee bean delivery services in NYC to see which ones have the best beans, delivery and customer service. I’ll let you know what I find out.

Starbucks Flat White

The flat white is a medium sized coffee with milk. Starbucks in the USA recently added the Flat White to their permanent menu. The Starbucks version is based on their normal cappuccino and latte with a few modifications.


Espresso shots

The Starbucks Flat White uses ristretto espresso shots. A ristretto is an espresso shot with less water used, or the same amount of water in a smaller amount of time. Ristretto shots aren’t really necessary for a drink to be considered a Flat White, but the best baristas usually do pull a shorter ristretto shot when making small milk drinks like a Machiatto, Cortardo and Flat White. So it’s a nice touch by Starbucks.

Velvet textured milk

The texture of the milk is a large part of what makes a Flat White different to a cappuccino and a latte. In some high-end cafes all the milk-based drinks are steamed the same. But in most middle of the road cafes and in Starbucks, the Cappuccino has more froth whereas the Latte has less froth (and more liquid milk). The Flat White is halfway in between.

The smooth texture of well steamed milk is one of the hallmarks of a good Flat White. This velvet texture seems to be the intention of the Starbucks barista training but honestly, the variabilty in milk between stores (and baristas) is what makes the Starbucks Flat White so hit and miss.

White dot

The Starbucks flat white has a white dot poured in the latte art. This is a nice touch and a good way to visually see whether the milk has been properly textured. If all you see is a mushy orange mess, then you can already tell that the milk has been poorly made without even tasting the drink.

Ordering off the secret menu

The only size the Flat White is listed on the menu in is “Tall” which is the Starbucks equivalent of a “small” (although at 12 oz, it would be considered a large anywhere else). The baristas are perfectly happy to make a Flat White in the secret “off-menu” “Short” size which is the Starbucks equivalent of an “extra small” (and at 8 oz would be considered a “medium” size anywhere else).

Before the introduction of the Flat White, the off-menu Short Cappuccino was my go-to order at Starbucks. In theory, the Short Flat White should be the ultimate Starbucks drink for modern coffee connoisseurs. But the recipe seems to be dialled-in for the Tall size and the Short tastes bitter, dark and burnt. Personally, I now stick to the recommended Tall size.

Coffee credibility

To me, a large part of the motivation for adding the Flat White to the menu is to help Starbucks recapture the positioning of a coffee-focused cafe. The “third place” positioning has taken the company too far down the road of a confusing menu, free-wifi and public-toilets. Starbucks was starting to feel like a tired habit and a co-working space without a monetization strategy. The Flat White is part of a larger global push to focus back on coffee.

Whatever you think of the drink itself, it’s great to see the largest coffee chain in the world putting some serious effort into actually making coffee.